thanksgiving a few days early

The Bird
beans and shallots and mushrooms
curried fruit

That’s two great meals with friends in two days. I’m having such a good time this weekend already, I think I need to take tomorrow off just to recover!

Highlights of the evening:

  • I got the fruity curry juice stuff all over my jeans when Tammy came to pick us up and the liquid sloshed over the sides of the pan. It wasn’t her driving; it was the fact that we’d made a double-batch and neglected to check how much liquid there actually was in there. Fortunately I borrowed some sweat pants from Matthias and they washed/dried my jeans while we ate.
  • We met Matthias’ sister and her boyfriend who are very nice.
  • We spoke a lot more German than normal for us on a weekend. This also applies somewhat to the party we attended in Munich last night.
  • While packing up and getting ready to go, it seemed my shoes had disappeared from the front hall of their apartment. Then I looked down and spotted them on Rainer’s feet. Mirth ensued.

The Curried Fruit seemed to be a success, even if some parties were a bit cautious about trying it at first or thought it must be intended as a dessert (and it does go great with vanilla ice cream, for the curious). I am pleased that most of it got eaten and leftovers were divvied up. And I’m looking forward to all manner of leftovers tomorrow.

party, then feast

Just rolled back into town this afternoon after spending the evening with some friends in Munich to attend a party they threw. We met a bunch of new (to us) people in an around the Munich area and had a great time catching up with the ones we’d previously met. The hosts were kind enough to offer us the guest bedroom since we traveled the farthest of all the attendees. What a swell time.

And then, later today, we’re off to Tammy and Matthias’ place for a pre-Thanksgiving feast. I hope to take some pictures of the food. Stay tuned.

Baked Artichoke Dip

Every time I’ve had artichoke dip in a restaurant, I’ve gone home and tried to reproduce it. Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there are LOADED with mayonnaise. A little mayo is fine, but too much and it just takes over. Plus, when it’s cooked, it leaves a layer of oil over everything. Blech.

So I finally found a recipe online that didn’t predominantly feature mayo and I altered it (greatly) to my liking. Here’s what I ended up with. We think it’s a winner!

8 oz cream cheese (lowfat works here)
3/4 c sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 c shredded mozzarella (I used gouda – mozz is hard to find)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
12 oz jar of artichoke hearts, drained
2 T dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 350° F (176° C). In a food processor, combine first 5 ingredients and pulse on low until blended. Add in mozzarella, cayenne and black pepper until just distributed. Add artichokes and onion and pulse 5-6 times, until artichokes are coarsely chopped and distributed. Pour mixture into 9×9 (we used a ceramic loaf pan) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Serve warm and spread on crackers or rye toast.

Basil Cornbread

Cliff is nutty for cornbread. I could take or leave it, until I made this one. Now, I’m a bit more amenable to it – especially with a pot of chili. I found this one here and deviated very little from the original, however, I’m thinking of leaving out the basil and adding jalapeños and a handful of shredded cheddar. I’ll update if I do it and it works.

2 c cornmeal
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar (I used less – I think you could get away with 1/4 c)
4 tsp baking powder (yes, 4)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c chilled unsalted butter, diced (I don’t think chilled is necessary, but I’m trying to follow directions)
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3 large eggs
1/3 c chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 c fresh or frozen corn kernels

Preheat oven to 400° F (204° C) and grease a 9×9 pan. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter with a pastry cutter until coarse meal forms. Set aside. Lightly whisk together buttermilk, eggs and basil until just combined. Stir cornmeal mixture into buttermilk mixture with a wooden spoon until all dry ingredients are moistened. Coarsely chop corn kernels in a food processor and stir into batter. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve.

google voice / video chat?

I’m itching to try this out.


Has anyone else downloaded the plugin yet? I tried in on our Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and it didn’t work – at least not with this cheapo webcam I use. On the Mac, the video test picture as shown in the screenshot above never came in — it remained a black box — though I could right-click on that black box and set some Flash player settings for audio, video, disk space usage, etc., which gave me hope. But either those settings I chose aren’t being committed, or there’s some deeper incompatibility between my SpeedLink 6820 web cam and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and the Google Chat plugin for Firefox/Safari 3.x.

Same camera on Windows seems to work, but I haven’t gotten the chance to test it with anyone yet. Haven’t tried it yet on Linux and I’m not hopeful (still no Google Chrome for Mac or Linux AFAIK).

Anyone? Anyone?

bbq sauce?

I’m getting more adventurous.

My favorite barbecue sauce contains:

  • tomato puree
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • salt 
  • worcestershire sauce
  • molasses
  • natural smoke flavor
  • “spices”
  • food starch-modified
  • dried garlic
  • chili powder
  • mustard flour
  • onion powder
  • xanthan gum
  • sodium benzoate

Except for the preservatives and texture manipulators, I can totally do that. It might take a few iterations, but it’ll work.

How do you make yours? I know I could find all kinds of stuff on the web, but inspire me.

East of the West, West of the East

I’m headed out to Romania again today, this time back to Iași. I found it oddly appropriate that this comic was published today and I’m headed to a place that is straddling geographical and political, historical and present-day definitions of “East” and “West”.

View Larger Map

It’s still not the Eastern-most part of Europe in which my company does business, but I can only think of 3 more European offices or factories further East than Iași.

I’ll be back really late Friday night.

Hot Italian Sausage

After the success of the breakfast sausage patties, I wanted to see if I could make some hot Italian sausage at home too.

Answer: YES.

But not with the recipe I used as a basis. Even with the suggestion to add fennel and red pepper flakes, the ratios there were terribly weak.

So here’s my suggestion:

1 pinch of salt
3 pinches coriander
3 pinches coarse black pepper
1/2 t whole fennel seed
3 pinches hot red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t smoked sweet paprika
40 ml water
500 g (about a pound) of ground pork

Note the pinches — nothing more exact than that. I mix the stuff up in a bowl with my best guess, then fry up a silver-dollar-sized patty to check for taste and re-season if necessary. The end result is lovely in a meat-sauce — we’ve proven that tonight. I’m excited to try this out as a pizza topping (I’m looking at you, Matthias) or in a lasagna.

curdish muffins and other culinary day trips

You might think this is another post about Exil based on the title. Not so!

We had a fantastic dinner of tapas at pals An & Alex’s house last night along with pal Matt (who lent us Casino Royale in preparation for tomorrow’s Quantum of Solace viewing) and we brought one of our favorite desserts along to share: Cinnamon Fluff Cake with Lemon Sauce.

But we had two lemons and a cup of buttermilk left over after that. Hmm, what can I do with that? And on a Sunday, without leaving the house?

I recalled a discussion about lemon curd on my favorite old-school bulletin board, found a recipe online that looked doable, and flipped open the old standby for some muffin or biscuit recipes involving buttermilk. I found exactly what I needed pretty quickly and thought I could do a nice wake-up surprise for the better half quickly and easily.

Yeah, in theory.

In reality, I measured out the buttermilk to find I had exactly the amount necessary for the recipe. I thought something must be off while mixing the wet and dry ingredients together, because there was just not enough moisture in there to pour batter into muffin cups. Odd. I thought it must be a typo in the recipe or something, so I just compensated by adding regular milk until I thought it looked OK. Then I was about to get started on the Lemon Curd when I realized the buttermilk had never made it into the mixing bowl at all, and instead regular milk was in there. I really didn’t want to waste the buttermilk, so I dumped it in and added more flour until I thought the texture of the batter was right. And I added another teaspoon of baking powder to make sure I didn’t end up with small-gauge cannon balls. I put it into the oven and crossed my fingers that they would be edible.

I was a little distraught at this point because I thought I could hear Sarah moving around upstairs, and I this to be a breakfast surprise. In my haste to get moving with the curd while the muffins were baking, I neglected to zest one of my two remaining lemons before squishing the juice out of it and discarding the rest into the trash. So I guess the curd is only half as zesty as intended (though I got the juice it called for) — which seems to be zesty enough. Next time we’ll see what it’s supposed to taste like.

The muffins turned out OK, by the way — even in our crappy oven. Because I upped the flour and liquid content without including more salt and sugar, they don’t taste like much, but I’m just glad they baked up nicely despite my mad scientist chemistry meddling. And once you spread the lemon curd on them, you don’t miss any muffin flavor at all.

Later today: continued sausage exploits after last week’s great success.